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Germany shifts military towards global peacekeeping

by Deutsche Presse Agentur Thursday, May. 22, 2003 at 8:59 PM

Leaked versions of the 22-page defence paper place resolution of international crises under UN leadership at the top of the task list, and add a new and unfamiliar role: helping the police fight September-11-style terrorist attacks.

Germany shifts its military focus

Deutsche Presse Agentur, 21 May 2003

BERLIN – German Defence Minister Peter Struck unveiled Wednesday the first review of the nation’s defence policy in 11 years with a key part of the proposals stating that domestic protection was no longer the prime role of the country’s defence forces.

The old guidelines, last revised in 1992, called for territorial forces that could mobilize to defend Germany from Soviet invasion.



The latest threat assessment accepts that no conventional foreign army is likely to invade Germany: instead the forces must be trained and equipped to join allied operations outside of Germany.

During the 1990s, Germany gingerly began sending its soldiers abroad to serve on peacekeeping missions.

There was concern that this could anger nations that had experienced German invasion during the Second World War. Serbian nationalists tried to whip up that feeling, but German peacekeeping deployments in Macedonia, Bosnia and Kosovo were deemed a success.

Germany is proud of being involved in more peacekeeping operations abroad than any other nation, with soldiers in eight countries.

Military planners realized in the 1990s that "deployment abroad" to nip crises in the bud was no longer something the services did occasionally in an emergency: it was turning into their main task.

At first the idea was controversial, but as the United States sent forces first into Afghanistan, then into Iraq, the focus of Germany's internal debate switched to the rules of international law that restrain powerful nations.

Projecting German military capacity into places as far away as Afghanistan has brought the German military to the realization that they need bigger, long-range transport planes and new organization.

The services also say their weapons are out of date. Even the German navy, which is better equipped than other two arms, found itself handicapped in the tropics because its boats, designed for northern waters only, lack air conditioning.

Leaked versions of the 22-page defence paper place resolution of international crises under UN leadership at the top of the task list, and add a new and unfamiliar role: helping the police fight September-11-style terrorist attacks.

The early disclosure of the draft has triggered a row between Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrats and their junior coalition partners, the Greens, over the place of conscription.

Once staunch pacifists, the Greens have emerged as proponents of military reform. They argue that Germany should copy France and Britain, and convert to all- professional armed forces with better equipment and fewer soldiers.

The Social Democrats are deeply attached to the idea of "citizens in uniform" and insist that nine months' national service is not only good for young men, but keeps the army, navy and air force in touch with society.

The paper confirms a continuation of conscription, though Germany's most senior officer, General Wolfgang Schneiderhan, said recently he could "live with" a reduction to only six months' service.

The paper makes no change to Germany's affirmation of its alliance with the United States as the cornerstone of its defence.

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